America’s drug habits shouldn’t fuel atrocities across the border

An urgent admonition to all stoners concerning yesterday: take pains to ensure that your herb is homegrown. If not, acknowledge at the least that your indulgences make you complicit in a global web of human atrocities.

I grew up in El Paso near the Rio Grande, a thin river that stood as the divider between America and Mexico, the wealthy and the impoverished. Though poor, Juarez, the city across the border, used to be a functioning town, it’s life blood being the maquiladoras where American companies sent parts to be assembled for the cheap labor. There was a throbbing nightlife, as well as the allure of tourism from the prosperous party-goers to the north.

However, the pulse of the city has been diminished from a hearty throb to a feeble flutter. The bullet-ridden, bedraggled corpse that is Mexico has had its blood drained through torturous killings – bodies being dissolved in acid, vicious decapitations – displayed publicly on bridges, and general acts of indiscriminate violence. A debilitating fear permeates all members of the society as cartels battle each other and the Calderon administration for dominance of smuggling routes. The very state of Mexico, some experts warn, is on the cusp of being torn asunder. Estimates put deaths in Juarez during 2008 at more than 4,700, and an exodus of business owners along the border who are fleeing extortion rackets, kidnapping and brutality has further crippled the already-imperiled economy. Furthermore, widespread corruption in the political and policing spheres has condemned the infrastructure to rot. This is a global war, embodied in its most visceral form in the border city closest to my home, and we all have our roles.

Americans contribute our wealth, weapons and whetted appetites for drugs to the war. In return we get a temporary good time, wrecked lives, rampant crime and well-funded terrorist groups that shoot our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Viewed with this prelude, it’s much like standing within your house and feeding the flames consuming it with your hard-earned dollar bills.

The fault may not be the consumers’ alone. Many have argued, and I would agree, that the government should put humanitarian necessities -the basic right to life- before a hard-line stance against drugs. Many would say that in an ideal world, the government would subvert the underground market by legalizing the drugs so that the drugs could be traded and controlled in the open and out of the unfettered realms of the illicit markets. Without the illegal markets, the cartels could no longer subsist, the price for drugs would go down and lives would be spared.

However, the reality is that James Madison, in envisioning our tripartite government, made it near impossible for this country to make swift, radical changes – especially when those changes amount to something as stigmatized as marijuana legalization. Additionally, vast amounts of the cartels’ revenues come from harder drugs like cocaine, and the argument to legalize those drugs, with their effects on the human psyche and body understood to be far more debilitating, are stretched tenuously thin. Therefore, it becomes a moral imperative to ensure that any drug-related indulgences we partake in are not the final link in the chain that is around the necks of our neighbors to the south, and to ensure also that our monies aren’t employed to lubricate the engines of global terror.

Chilton Tippin is a senior international communication major from El Paso.